Him, Me, Muhammad Ali
2016, Sarabande Books
Novelist Randa Jarrar’s collection keenly reflects the lives of Muslim women and men across a cross-section of experiences. The books gives us a diverse, nuanced view of what it means to be Muslim. Jarrar’s work humanizes our experiences through a series of narratives—we meet a queer Muslim woman, a Palestinian woman in America who’s raising her two brothers, and a boy living in the Gaza Strip, as a few examples. This book perfectly illustrates a shared experience of otherness while demonstrating what makes each member of our community unique. —Sonia M.
Don’t Call Us Dead
2017, Graywolf Press
The first poem I ever encountered—and loved—of Danez Smith’s, was 2014’s “Not an Elegy For Mike Brown”, a lament dedicated, in equal measure, to the fallen teenager and black, American boyhood itself. In the National Book Award nominated Don’t Call Us Dead, Smith continues their fervid exploration of the violences—national and insidious—heaped onto people and bodies like theirs. These poems are a reminder that there is always at least as much joy as there is violence. Both, always, are present in their works. —Jasmine Sanders
Trust No Aunty
If I could go back in time, I’d hand my teenage-self Maria Qamar’s Trust No Aunty. While it’s meant to make Desi girls like me chuckle at the hyperbolic, yet relatable, inside-jokes so prevalent amongst women in our community, it also plays a significant role as a guidebook for those who have to balance multiple cultural identities, one of those identities being our Western one. It’s suitably divided into six parts: school, professional life, love, beauty, domestic life, and lifestyle. Qamar provides diversified content for each section, ranging from her vibrant art to recipes, from “Aunty” profiles to personal essays, beauty tips, and more. While Desi culture is never monolithic, she carefully and knowledgeably highlights the common traits present in the culture that every girl in the community likely faces. This isn’t just a book for Desis! It can serve as an educational tool for those who think we’re a bunch of kids living in households filled with Tiger Moms and 7-Eleven-owning fathers. We are so much more than that, and while strict parents and relatives aren’t an uncommon sight in our community, Qamar doesn’t demonize them. She highlights their characteristics humorously. If I were to take every thought and feeling I have experienced in every facet of my life up until now and shove it into a book, it would look like Trust No Aunty. —Upasna Barath ♦